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Future today, Audi starts autonomous PR rides 
Peter Schmidt | Editor

Published: Thu, 20th July 2017 13:53:11 GMT

Audi AI Autonomous driving Germany A9 Autobahn

Open quote signDriving along the autobahn between Munich and Ingolstadt, car drivers and their passengers are confronted by unfamiliar new and different looking traffic signs. But perhaps stranger still, apart from the new black and white traffic signs, drivers on this stretch are now sharing this extremely busy section of Germany’s autobahn with cars chauffeured by a computer rather than a driver like you or me.

Perhaps unknown to non-regular A9 road users, this piece of autobahn now doubles up as a real-world test track for all types of piloted vehicles.

A first hint, these new black and white traffic signs, located every 2.5 kilometres, allow these autonomous vehicles to determine and check their exact location.

A likely first for Germany’s road users, these autonomously driven cars will have a person seated behind the steering wheel, but their hands are clearly not on the steering wheel.

These cars, despite an occupied driver’s seat, are driven entirely autonomously.

Take pity on the poor front seat occupant, who in all likelihood must be bored to death.

Quite simply, every task, including lane changes, is conducted entirely by the installed robotic system.

And the human input?

Take control in a highly unlikely computer malfunction.

If old enough, cast your mind back to cult movie “2001- A Space Odyssey”: Lean back and relax, HAL (computer) is doing the driving.

Just days after unveiling its all-new A8 flagship in Barcelona, offering genuine hands-off piloted driving at speeds up to 60km/h, Audi is already using its piloted test cars on one of Europe’s busiest autobahns.

Anyone familiar with this stretch will know that this is ‘NOT’ a 60km/h driving zone.

Audi, in yesterday’s press release, said on this autobahn stretch its piloted test cars accelerate, brake and change lanes predictively and smoothly while cooperating with other road users.

All this at speeds up to 130km/h.

An automotive engineer familiar with the technology, speaking to AID on the condition of anonymity, said the proven technology is such that today Audi’s test cars could do this 60 minute trip a “great deal quicker”.

Before long, these autonomous Audi PR trips with invited guests, starting today from Munich airport along the fast-flowing A9 autobahn to Ingolstadt, could, barring legal hurdles, gradually creep up to significantly higher speeds.

But when, theoretically speaking, today’s 60 minute routine trip will be halved, allowing say 200km/h on the still unrestricted section of this particular autobahn stretch, the car will still be piloted entirely by the computer for the entire trip.

At these speeds it pays to keep at all times a jovial relationship with Audi’s equivalent of the HAL 9000 computer!
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